Seymour McCarraher was a Bevin Boy called up in October 1944. Below is a letter from him sent home to his parents while he was in training. Printed with kind permission of James McCarraher.
11th October 1944 HIGHTOWN MINER’S HOSTEL, CASTLEFORD
Dear Mum & Dad,
Apart from the fact that I’m suffering from a cold, all is going well. We are living in well-equipped and central heated huts. They are the type the army use, shaped rather like miniature aircraft hangars. Several huts are linked by brick passages, and form blocks e.g. the mess, kitchens, study, games room etc. consisting of several huts, all form one block. The dormitories form another and so on.
We are called at 6.15 every morning and can take breakfast between 4.30-7.30 a.m. We have to be in the colliery by 8. Fortunately buses are run to and from the hostel. The general routine whilst training is as follows. On arrival you collect your lamp and then proceed to the shaft which is over 2,100 ft in depth. The cage whizzes down the shaft at a terrific rate. You stay down below until 11.30 “playing trains”, i.e. learning how to couple and uncouple trucks or tubs from the moving endless coil to which they are fastened, and how to put them back on the track when they come off. At 11.30 you come up, have a hot shower then have lunch at the canteen. At 1.0 p.m. comes P.T which takes place in a long hut in the so called park opposite the colliery. At 2.30 there is a lecture on some subject or other concerning mining, and at 3.45 we get on the bus and return to the hostel.
Please excuse the blobs but my pen keeps on running.
At the hostel we have a wash, change into our clean clothes which we keep in our own lockers together with our other belongings.
Our wages are 60/- per week with 6/6 income tax. We have been given a settling in allowance of £2-4.0. We pay for our lodging and food at the hostel, but I’m not sure how much it all comes to yet. Apparently you still have enough money left to keep you going. So far I am well in pocket.
I am not at Pontefract (except when training), but at the neighbouring town of Castleford. It has several decent shops, and you can buy things like razor blades and tooth-brushes. I’ll send you some Dad when I next go into town. The district for miles round consists of railways, collieries and smoke blacked buildings. The trees and hedges are very scanty. I have not seen the sun since I have been here. It is either foggy or raining. At present a terrific gale is blowing. There are some bright things however. The beer has much more flavour up here than in Southampton.
I have from Saturday noon until Sunday night free, and as Selby is only 12-15 miles away I shall be glad of a bed on Saturday nights if Uncle and Auntie [Alan and Jan] can put me up. I expect I shall be able to train to Skipton for weekends too. Selby of course is a mere cycle journey.
If you overstay or take your time off from the colliery, provided it is not a frequent occurrence, the most they seem to do is to stop your pay. So if I overstay my Xmas leave, which I believe consists of 3 days, I am not in serious trouble. I think we ought to get leave of a decent length as the forces do. It will take 2 days of my leave to travel home and back. However things may have changed by Xmas. By the way don’t worry, I won’t take any time off without very good reason! – which reminds me of a very amusing incident…I have met a fellow in the hostel named Baker who comes from Lyndhurst, and was in 3b. with me when King Edward VI School was in Hill Lane. Unfortunately we see very little of each other. Anyhow, some time ago the Foreman and an official told him to go on home. He took them at their word and went – for 6 weeks! On his return the “powers that be” interviewed him and are saying he had no right to go home. What will happen I don’t know, but I think he did the most sensible thing.
Have you had any more news from David [older brother] ? If he arrives before I come home – I don’t yet know when – will you wire the above address? The hostel is on the ‘phone, but it is no more than a box, so you would never get in contact with me. I can easily ‘phone you however.
I have several more letters to write, so I’ll say cheerio for now, and go easy Mum!
List of things needed.
Shaving brush in bathroom
Any spare golf club for swinging
Needle, thread or cotton and wool
I shall have to send washing home, so could you send me some wrapping paper.
Badge can be issued to men who were conscripted directly into the mines, those who opted for mine work in preference to joining the Armed Forces, or those who were in the Armed Forces and volunteered to become miners during the period 1942-1948.
The Bevin Boys scheme was introduced in 1942 by the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Ernest Bevin. The scheme ran between 1942 and 1948 and involved recruiting men to work in coal mines during and immediately following World War 2.
The badge is available to all surviving Bevin Boys and formally recognises their work in the UK coalfields during and immediately after World War II. The badge can only be issued posthumously to the widows of men who died on or after 20 June 2007 and fall into the above category.
The application form for the badge can be found here:
Or you can contact the Department of Energy and climate change who administer the badge
on 0300 068 5716
Bevin Boy Commemorate Medal
For the relatives of deceased Bevin Boys who do not qualify for the Government Bevin Boy Badge (those Bevin Boys who died before 2007) a Commemorative Medal has been commissioned by the Bevin Boys' Association.
The Bevin Boy Medal is available to Ballotees, Optants, Volunteers and next of kin called up between 1943 and 1948.
The medal is solid silver and can be ordered here: